Kolkata: After taking oath as chief minister of Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has become the second woman to hold the high office for the third consecutive time. The only other woman to have broken this glass ceiling was Sheila Dixit of the Congress Party who served New Delhi thrice.
Apart from breaking the gender barrier, Mamata Banerjee is also in the august company of only five other men who have been sworn in as chief minister for the three consecutive terms – Arunachal Pradesh’s Geong Apang, Sikkim’s Pawan Chambling, Gujarat’s Narendra Modi, Orrisa’s Naveen Patnaik and Bengal’s Jyoti Basu have all achieved this rare feat.
At present, the 66-year-old Trinamul Congress chief is the only woman chief minister of India.
Mamata is also among the few Indian politicians, who formed a political party, built it brick by brick and toiled hard to make it the ruling party of one of the most important states of India for over a decade now. Given the thumping victory that her party has seen in this assembly election, she will continue leading the state for another five years.
Individually too, she has been elected two times as Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), seven times as Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha- Lower House of Indian Parliament), and served Union Minister on three occassions and now a three-times Chief Minister.
What makes her political journey special and different from any other Indian politician is the fact that despite coming from the grassroots she has never been accused of corruption or criminal activities like patronizing riots.
In her political career, the only allegation she has faced is that of ‘appeasing Muslims’. This accusation is hurled at her only by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is known internationally as a Hindu supremacist party.
In fact, it is the lack of any other major allegation against Mamata that BJP leaders and supporters propagate the imaginary appeasement theory against her. During the Nandigram fight, in which her former aide Suvendhu Adhikari was contesting against her, he went to the extent of saying that if Mamata Banerjee were to win the election from Nandigram it would become mini Pakistan.
However, the mandate Mamata and her party has got in the Bengal assembly polls of 2021 is bigger than her 2011 and 2016 victories. If in 2011 it was the 34-year-rule of the Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI-M) that had been decimated by her, the win of 2021 was equally important as it was against the mighty BJP, the self-proclaimed world’s largest party with a brute majority in the Lok Sabha and almost a majority in the Rajya Sabha.
During its ten-year-rule in Bengal so far, TMC MLAs have been accused of corruption as in the Narada and Saradha scams, but the flames never touched the party supremo.
Mamata can also not be accused of dynastic politics like the BJP loves to charge others with.
Her simplicity has been the most attractive part of her personality. Draped in a white saree with a blue border, the three times chief minister wears rubber slippers all the time.
The TMC chief is poised for a more important role in national politics, as indicated in a report by senior journalist Rasheed Kidwai, that she may become United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson, replacing Sharad Pawar.
It will be interesting to see how Mamata ‘the artist’ paints India in her colours – an India where politics of secularism and constitutional priorities have taken a backstage in recent times.